Kennedys debate at Rectorial Hustings

Published

Aimee Pratt

The contenders in the run for Glasgow University’s Rectorial position took part in a hustings event held in the Glasgow University Union Debates Chamber on February 16.

The event allowed candidates Alison Louise Kennedy and current rector Charles Kennedy a chance to address the student body before the rectorial elections. Both nominees gave short speeches before the floor was opened up to questions.

Even though the event attracted a turnout of approximately 100, Tommy Gore, President of the Students Representative Council (SRC), commented that it was not as busy as he expected, before going on to highlight the importance of the rector’s role in maintaining student and university relations.

He said: “It’s good to see a reasonable number of you here, it’s not quite as many as I had perhaps hoped.

“I believe that an active, working rector is something that is very important for us students.”

The event began with A. L. Kennedy stating she was, “under no illusions of winning.” Instead she hopes to use the Rectorial election as a chance to discuss the issues surrounding education.

She also commented, “My education quite literally saved my life” and stressed the importance of a university degree. Charles Kennedy stated that in his previous years as rector he had and hoped to continue a ‘hands on’ approach at the job.

Both candidates agreed they were aiming to provide students at Glasgow University with the best academic experience possible in light of the proposed spending cuts, an issue that students had protested about earlier that day.

Charles Kennedy commented, “Access to higher education should be based on an ability to learn, not on an ability to pay.” A view that was echoed by A. L. Kennedy.

During the hustings, students posed questions to both contenders. Questions revolved around the issue of funding cuts, with candidates being quizzed on the importance of the University’s Department of Adult and Continuing Education (DACE) and attempts by the university to outsource international student recruitment.

One student asked how the candidates planned to make up the University’s £35million debt without academic cuts. A. L. Kennedy responded that she would start with, “cutting Anton Muscatelli’s salary”. This answer received the biggest applause of the night. She went on to suggest increasing external funding but did not support the business cash-raising model, stating that it had “previously failed in the NHS and in public transport.” Charles Kennedy replied that a funding structure similar to the American alumni donation system should be created.

Questions were then raised by students concerning the future of the modern languages and nursing departments, which are facing huge cuts in funding. Both candidates responded by agreeing on the importance of financial support for these departments. Charles Kennedy commented that by slashing resources in modern languages the University was, “trying to run the vehicle without part of the engine.”

A L. Kennedy echoed his statement in relation to the nursing department.

When a question about funding of the student unions arose, Charles Kennedy was quick to offer an explanation into the previous economic management of the, recently reopened, Hetherington Research Club. He stated that the closure of the club was disappointing, and that he did contribute to a business plan for reopening the club. The plan was, however, denied by university management.

Photo: Sean Anderson

The Rector elections were held on over two days February 22 and 23, with Charles Kennedy being elected Rector with 82% of the vote, with 2601 votes while A. L. Kennedy received 565.